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Smart ICT – from inception to completion


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by Dr Bharat Sharma

This presentation was made at the Smart ICT – end of project conference held in Netherlands in March 2014. The presentation provides an overview of the Smart ICT project from the inception to completion stage. Various aspects like the challenges faced, project implementation, impact etc have been discussed in the slides.

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Smart ICT – from inception to completion

  1. 1. Photo:DavidBrazier/IWMIPhoto:TomvanCakenberghe/IWMIPhoto:DavidBrazier/IWMIPhoto:DavidBrazier/IWMI A water-secure world Smart ICT for Weather and Water Advice for Smallholders in Africa: Inception to Completion Smart ICT Conference: Shaping Ideas for a Smarter Future March 11-12, 2014 Hof van Wageningen, Wageningen, The Netherlands by Bharat R. Sharma
  2. 2. A water-secure world Background About 3 years back IFAD was convinced that poor, small, and remote farmers in Africa need to benefit from new technology and receive direct and actionable advisories on weather, water and crop to improve productivity and the livelihoods. IWMI (Lead), WaterWatch (now eleaf), Basfood, DLVplant took up this challenge to develop, implement and evaluate the concept, tools, models, local capacity, field-sites and business models for the project. An Inception Meeting for the partners and donors was held in this very venue on 18-19 August, 2011 to agree to the methodology, budgets and processes and kick-start the “Smart ICT –Africa Project.”
  3. 3. A water-secure world Goal: • Empower smallholder farmers, and community and public institutions in Africa to make informed decisions in managing their land and water resources better with the help from ICT-based technologies integrating weather, water and crop related information and advice. Objective: • To develop, test and pilot innovative approaches providing needed information; develop capacity of stakeholders to make good use of it; define priorities for data provision; and increase interest in agricultural and ICT-service provision industry for its wider uptake.
  4. 4. A water-secure world The Concept: Very complex and technical in the background; simple and actionable for the users.
  5. 5. A water-secure world Project Locations : Mali, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia New Challenges………………….Each Year !! (Coup, Partition, Revolution)
  6. 6. Project Sites • Project aimed at smallholders: 60 pilot farmers per site are intensively monitored and supported (2012/2013) • Services are free of charge (IFAD): many additional users have registered – commercial farmers, research, government, etc.
  7. 7. A water-secure world User Need Assessment Capacity Building Design and Implementation of Service Review Missions Evaluation, Uptake Business Models The Project Process
  8. 8. Photo:DavidBrazier/IWMIPhoto:TomvanCakenberghe/IWMIPhoto:DavidBrazier/IWMIPhoto:DavidBrazier/IWMI A water-secure world
  9. 9. A water-secure world • High input costs, volatility of markets, poor advisories on production technologies make this venture very risky for the farmers. Inadequate supply of irrigation water, weather fluctuations leading to pest and disease attacks were invariably cited as major factors for crop losses. “More Water → More Products → More Money → Better “Future”. • Mobile phone coverage and ownership was good in all the three countries: varying from about 70 percent in Ethiopia, >85 percent in Sudan and above 100 percent in Egypt. However, its usage for productive purposes was less than 10 percent. • Most respondents own radio and/or TV and reported interest in important agricultural programs- but the information was very generic and not of direct relevance.
  10. 10. A water-secure world • If appropriate cell phones and advisories are available at affordable costs, over 90% of the respondents are willing to use it for information and advisories on weather, irrigation and crop growth. • Most farmers prefer to receive the messages in their own language; Arabic , Oromia, Beja (voice). Text messages were generally acceptable; accept in case of illiterate farmers which prefer voice messages. • Farmers are willing to use mobiles to access advisories on time of planting, crop management irrigation and fertiliser application routine and harvesting schedule. SMS 34% Verbal message 57% Indifferent 9% Preference of message format - Ethiopia.
  11. 11. A water-secure world • Advisory services need to be synchronised with cropping pattern and stages of crop growth. • In Sudan, farmers placed heavy emphasis on water related services and 84% of the farmers said would use phones to access the information even if it cost some money. River/stream flow and drought detection information scored 100% among rainfed farmers. • Involving stakeholders especially at grassroot level will contribute to sustainability of the system. • Human and material capacity building should be an essential element of the intervention.
  12. 12. A water-secure world 2. Capacity Building Project should directly engage with the beneficiary farmers through capacity building. Human and material capacity is rather weak in this technical area and the skills of concerned officers and the institutions need to be upgraded. Analysis of satellite based information and adapting it to the local conditions to define package of advice and information to farmers should be provided high priority for success of the intervention and its scaling up.
  13. 13. A water-secure world • Capacity building was an important and integral part of the project and programs were designed with very specific and relevant contents and implemented in Cairo (Egypt), Wad Medani (Sudan), Arata Chufa (Ethiopia). • The project followed a “Trainer’s Training Approach” where a representative mix of the farmers, field officers, research officers, extension staff (with a gender focus) were extensively trained to have a critical capacity for capacity building on a larger scale. • Partnerships with institutes of relevance and involvement /buy-in from high level policy planners was given high importance. Special efforts were made to involve the local media for wider publicity , awareness and sustained impact. • The resource material has been published in the form of easy-to- understand toolkits and made available as an open source for wider access and reference.
  14. 14.  Stakeholders’ meetings − Khartoum 25th April 2012 − Ministry of Water Resources Hall (37 participants) − Kassala on 26th April −IFAD meeting Hall − 30 participants − GRTU − IFAD officials at Kassala − Gash Agricultural Admin. − Ministry of Agriculture, Kassala State − Kassala Metrological Station Photo credit: Giriraj Amarnath/IWMI Photo credit: Giriraj Amarnath/IWMI
  15. 15. Attended by 23 participants Gash farmers  Gash WUA’s Gash irrigation Gash Agricultural extension Ministry of Agriculture – Kassala State  Gezira Scheme – Irrigation Engineers  Ministry of Water Resources & Electricity  Agricultural Research Corporation  University of Kassala (F. Agriculture & F. Engineering  Researchers from HRC(S) Photo credit: Giriraj Amarnath/IWMI Photo credit: Giriraj Amarnath/IWMI
  16. 16. A water-secure world A total of 21 participants representing researchers, extension officers, field functionaries and farmers participated in the program at Soil, Water, and Environment Research Institute of ARC, Cairo, Egypt Photo credit: Bharat Sharma/IWMIPhoto credit: Bharat Sharma/IWMI
  17. 17. A water-secure world Broad Contents of Capacity Building Program at Egypt: • Smart Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for Weather and Water Information and Advice to Smallholders in Africa: An Introduction SEBAL: a guide for non-scientists • Spatial Data components in Smart ICT Project- Egypt • Theoretical and Practical Session on Crop Irrigation • Background of the Current Project and its Context for Egypt • FieldLook Egypt: How to Use the Irrigation Planner • Technical Approach for Operation of the Project at Egypt site (West Nobariya region) • Introduction in remote sensing for assessing water consumption and crop yield • FieldLook : Explanation and instructions on functioning and use of web-based FieldLook Egypt application • Field Practical: Determination of rooting depths, soil types, irrigation requirements and the related queries. • Field Visit with Prospective Farmers and Farm Functionaries
  18. 18. A water-secure world Smart ICT training notification Ivo Miltenburg (eLEAF) presenting at workshop Hands-on training on how to register new fields in FieldLook platform Local trainer gathering data from farmer before entering data onto the FieldLook platform Presentation of the prepaid phone cards to the Woreda Head for farmers to test the service Distribution of the Nokia phones to 60 pilot farmers Smart –ICT Training Program in Ethiopia: November 21- 23, 2012 Photo credit: Lisa-Maria Rebelo/IWMI Photo credit: Lisa-Maria Rebelo/IWMI Photo credit: Lisa-Maria Rebelo/IWMIPhoto credit: Lisa-Maria Rebelo/IWMI Photo credit: Lisa-Maria Rebelo/IWMI Photo credit: Lisa-Maria Rebelo/IWMI
  19. 19. A water-secure world Excerpts from Evaluation of the Capacity Building Program in Ethiopia: All participants were enthusiastic, serious and very much involved. It appeared that most targeted farmers do not have regular access to internet, nor are they used to sending sms’s . This required the trainers to do some basic training in these abilities. The training was well organized and the participants confirmed at the end of the training the relevance. Both the government stakeholders and the farmers were asked to give their opinion on the relevance and the reflection was highly positive and encouraging. IFAD was thanked on behalf of the Water Users Association for supporting the project, and IWMI and eLeaf for “waking the farmers of Arata Chufa up from their sleep and giving them a place in the world”.
  20. 20. A water-secure world 3. Design and Implementation of Service • This part was really the heart and soul of the project. It involved very high level of expertise and active involvement of modellers, RS-GIS experts, data acquisition and processing professionals, ground truthing teams, telecommunication companies/ network operators, partner institutions (all at the back-end operations) and farmers, farm functionaries and the organisations as the front-end beneficiaries. • The service comprised of near real-time information and advice on a number of weather, water and crop related parameters at all three sites in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Functionality and usefulness of the Irrigation Planner was also tested at all 3 sites. • The site at Sudan (Gash Irrigation Scheme) had a special component on hydraulic modelling and Flood Forecasting and Early Warning System
  21. 21. A water-secure world • The service was available over an area of 60km*60 km at each site and was provided to 60 selected and registered farmers. Other farmers were also encouraged to register their fields to receive and/or view the desired information. • The service was operational for: Ethiopia: One non-rainy season of 2012-13 Sudan: Two rainy/ flooding seasons of 2012 and 2013 Egypt: Two cropping seasons in 2012 and 2013 • The service had both a push (information and weekly advice) and pull ( farmers raised a query in an interactive manner and received a response) component. • Organisations/ WUAs were able to view the individual and integrated information in a dynamic platform through the individual Fieldlook sites.
  22. 22.  The Agricultural Water Management Tool (FIELDLOOK –Sudan)  Developed (Smart-ICT project)  Translated in Arabic Static text , Dynamic text, E-mail templates .  Tested 
  23. 23. A water-secure world 4. Evaluation of Service and Review Missions • At the end of the operational season(s) farmers, farm functionaries and other important stakeholders were again approached with a formal research instrument/ checklist for a proper evaluation of the ICT service in the 3 countries. • In water scarce areas of Ethiopia, water schedule became flexible with farmers receiving ‘irrigate now’ advisory getting priority over ‘do not irrigate’ farmers. • Irrigation schedules became more rational – 52% farmers used less water, 30% farmers advised to use more water. More than 77% of farmers applied sms-based irrigation. • All the farmers received advisories through sms and 95% farmers received irrigation planning advice.
  24. 24. A water-secure world • Majority of the respondents (98%) found the message sent was relevant and 83% of them acted on the advice. 65 percent of the farmers also raised additional queries. • Illiteracy is limiting communication via SMS in Ethiopia. About 78% of the farmers understood the message while the rest relied on others, school children were very helpful in informing parents about the message. The messages were very helpful to women as it reduced their workload. • Having a mobile, its use for different purposes, understanding economic use of water, social networking, market information etc were highly appreciated by the project beneficiaries. • Farmers are willing to pay for the service, but there is a great variation from demand from a free government service to about USD 10 per season.
  25. 25. Photo:DavidBrazier/IWMIPhoto:TomvanCakenberghe/IWMIPhoto:DavidBrazier/IWMIPhoto:DavidBrazier/IWMI A water-secure world
  26. 26. A water-secure world Percent variation in the knowledge about SMS-based agricultural advisory service and farmers willingness to pay for such a service in three study districts in Egypt SMS-advisory service Districts Total Al-Bostan North El-Tahrir West Nubaria Heard about the service and willingness to pay 15.0 (9) 33.3 (20) 33.3 (20) 81.7(49) Not-willing to pay 18.3 (11) 0 0 18.3(11) *Figures in parenthesis indicate the number of farmers.
  27. 27. A water-secure world Other Limitations: 1. Canal operational schedules are fixed in some parts of Egypt and only farmers with access to pump may be able to implement all the advisories. 2. Some farmers and farm functionaries found the information and maps sent were too complex to comprehend and needed more training for better comprehension. On the hand farmers and functionaries requested for more images rather than text to view the actual condition of large farms on the smart phones. 3. Poor network and availability of electricity for phone charging etc. was also a constraint in certain areas.
  28. 28. A water-secure world 5. Uptake and Impact The concept and design of the Project was considered very novel and futuristic and as such concerted efforts were made to share it with a wide range of peers and experts . Initial results were also presented through a number of high level thematic events: • The project was presented as a “Blue Sky Idea” at ARM of IWMI. (Bharat) • The design, concept and modelling framework was shared at the Stockholm International Water Week-2012 at Stockholm. ( Wim Bastiaanssen) • Results were shared through a Special Keynote Lecture at ICT4D Conference at Accra, Ghana (Bharat) • IWMI organised a Special session on “Use of RS-GIS and ICT for Improved Irrigation Services” at First World Irrigation Forum, at Mardin, Turkey (Bharat, Vladimir, Giriraj) • IWMI and IFDC organised a Special session on Use of ICT for Improved Agricultural Input Services at International ICT4Ag Conference at Kigali, Rwanda (Bharat, Gijs)
  29. 29. A water-secure world • eLEAF and IWMI has cooperated with several government agencies (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands Space Office; Ministry of Water Resources, Sudan) in presenting the project and its results in promotional material. • Gijs Simons presented the Smart ICT project on July 3rd, 2013, during the opening of the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) program organized by the Netherlands Space Office • In July 2013, the Smart ICT project featured on Dutch national radio. Gijs Simons was interviewed on the benefits of Smart ICT services for African smallholder farmers • In August 2-013, The Guardian web editors conducted a phone interview with Gijs Simons on the Smart ICT project and the scope for this type of services in developing countries. This interview is likely to be published soon in the Guardian Sustainable Business Section. • A project feature on Kassala TV- Sudan. • Rave reviews on Social media, Slideshare, Twitter, Blogs and other platforms for wider dissemination of the results.
  30. 30. A water-secure world 6. Business Plans for the Smart ICT – Africa Project The business report examines the feasibility of a future proof financially independent Smart ICT service and consults on the implementation to support further expansion and continued services. The aim is to break even within 3 year with no institutional funding. In year 3 the costs have to be covered with the revenues. For the next two years commercial contribution of the producers or the farmer organizations, associations and industries is expected to be minimum, as users of the service need sufficient time to evaluate the value for their management and farm practices. Prices of the service will vary between market segments and farmers will experience a lot of benefits when the service is fully implemented in their crop management.
  31. 31. A water-secure world • The highest cost for running the SMART-ICT service is purchasing the DMC satellite images. Free images are available from Landsat, but the added cost of DMC images with respect to free Landsat images provide a number of advantages. The best case scenarios were estimated based on the use of free images. • There are significant financial opportunities for the project regions in Egypt and Ethiopia. • To obtain project knowledge and experience with the food industry, Egypt is the most interesting region where the implementation of Smart ICT using high cost DMC images is profitable within 3 years. • When no additional information is found for Sudan’s region regarding large food processors, it will be a difficult challenge to make the Smart ICT service commercially viable in the Gash area. However, a different area in Sudan, such as the Gezira Irrigation Scheme, may provide better prospective for a sustainable decision support system based on ICTs and geodata.
  32. 32. A water-secure world Breakeven objective for all 3 scenarios for putting in the SMART-ICT SERVICE in Africa.
  33. 33. A water-secure world Bharat Sharma International Water Management Institute- New Delhi, India The maps used in the presentations are generated by IWMI